Farmers needed for spring audit of ailing bird species

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Farmers are being asked to help carry out a national audit of an iconic but declining farmland bird.

The Partridge Count Scheme run by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) collects information on the annual abundance and breeding success of the wild grey partridge.

By getting farmers to help count sightings of the species, conservationists hope to better understand how the secrets of their survival and what land management practices benefit the bird.

A national decline in numbers of grey partridge are attributed to poor weather, such as the effect of wet summers on chick survival rates.

Neville Kingdon, organiser of the Partridge Count Scheme at the GWCT, said: “Partridge numbers have been in decline since the Second World War due to a range of factors and have disappeared from many areas of the country.

“Taking part in the spring count is a first step in helping participants understand the limitations on their land. That could be the need for better chick-food producing habitat or to reduce losses during nesting, but counting helps take away a lot of the guess work.”

The charity advises that counts are undertaken in the few hours after dawn or late evening when birds are out feeding.

Mr Kingdon added: “Start on just four or five fields to get used to what’s involved and how quick you cover that area.

“Regardless how much ground you cover, the results can reveal what’s happening on the ground.

“It doesn’t matter if you have only a few partridges as every bird is important. I’d encourage any farm or shoot still holding on to a few greys to get involved as they can make a big impact.”

For details on getting involved, see www.gwct.org.uk/pcs